Tool: Do the simple thing first.
I always feel a little bit smarter after listening to Invest Like the Best. On this episode, Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger talk about taking Instagram from an idea to an exit to successfully scaling it up in a large company to leaving it behind. (They also talk about what they’re up to now.)
They talk about the early days of running ads:
V1 of our auction system was literally a whiteboard with a calendar that was drawn in Sharpie. Basically maybe March 5th would say: Banana Republic, they’re running the ad that day. And in the morning the engineers look at and be like, all right, we got to make sure Banana Republic is running that day. Which on one hand is what we’d call Clown Town. But actually it was like a great example of doing the simple thing first.
If that ad system didn’t work, meaning people weren’t interested in buying those kinds of ads on Instagram, why would you have spent a year building the perfect auction model? And when it worked, then you go build the thing that lets thousands and thousands of different kinds of ads be running on Instagram at any given time.
It’s easy to forget how different Instagram was in the early days. Tags and things didn’t work. People posted to their mainf eed multiple times a day without considering that they might become excommunicated from society.
This was a good reminder to start with the simple thing first (or: do things that don’t scale) if you’re trying something new. It can be really easy to optimize prematurely.
Quick example from this blog: I spent entirely too much time trying to get WordPress to run locally to get these podcast summary cards in a box:
I started thinking about how the template would work and whether or not I knew how to use custom fields in WordPress and a bunch of other stuff that would make these things more systematic.
Anyway, I ended up not being able to get WordPress running locally so I just went with a simpler solution by writing CSS inline. And I have a MarsEdit formatting shortcut to paste the markup into each post. For the podcast name, title, and episode links, I copy and paste them in like a farmer.
It’d be nice to write a script for this but it’s working right now. And it’s definitely not the bottleneck for me writing posts regularly.